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Starbucks accused of union-busting tactics in New York as recognition drive continues

STARBUCKS has been accused of union busting tactics as workers in a number of its New York stores continue their fight for recognition.

The global coffee chain has deployed top executives to turn up at stores in Buffalo, where a unionisation campaign is underway, where they are pulling staff into “intimidating one-to-one meetings,” it was claimed on Tuesday.

It is reported to have employed union-busting firm Little Mendelson to lead mandatory “anti-union meetings” for all workers.

Starbucks is also alleged to have asked managers from across the country to go to Buffalo for three months “to help stop the union.”

But staff said the tactics are backfiring as its actions are making them angrier. “Workers just want a seat at the table,” they said.

The company has also sent mass text messages to all staff saying “your voice matters” instructing them to read its anti-union email.

Bosses fear that its New York outlets could become the first to form a union after filing papers with the National Labour Relations Board (NLRB) last month.

Employees at three stores in the Buffalo region of New York state said they wanted to unionise, citing a chaotic work environment, erratic hours and difficulty in taking sick leave during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The workers, numbering between 20 and 30 in each of the three outlets, penned an open letter to Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson on behalf of the newly formed Starbucks Workers United organising committee.

“We are organising a union to have a voice on the job, a say in the company, and the right to negotiate a fair contract,” the workers said.

Their campaign has spread with at least two more Starbucks stores in Buffalo joining the campaign. 

Support has been received from trade unionists and politicians, including Democratic senator Chuck Schumer who said on Tuesday: “New York workers started the labour movement and they’re committed to seeing it through. Say yes to union coffee.”

Starbucks appealed to the NRLB to hold the vote across all 20 of its Buffalo stores on Tuesday in a bid to make it harder for organisers to win a majority in favour of the union. It is a tactic used by Amazon in a recent successful union-bashing campaign.

In June Starbucks was found to have unlawfully sacked two workers in Philadelphia to hinder a unionisation drive and to have spied on conversations workers had with colleagues.

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